The End of the Internal Combustion Engine?

A slowly growing trend may have just reached critical mass.

In recent years, countries such as France, Britain, the Netherlands and Norway have passed legislation designed to ban internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the next 15 to 25 years. However, total annual sales of vehicles in those nations are a small fraction of total vehicle sales worldwide—about two million vehicles or less in each nation.

But traction is increasing. In May, India, with annual sales of about 3 million vehicles, announced plans to do the same by 2030.

Then, last month, China announced it is developing a long-term plan to phase out ICE vehicles by approximately 2030. The announcement sent shockwaves through the auto industry, given that China represents the industry's largest market, where annual vehicle sales are between 24 and 28 million. In fact, one in every four new cars on the planet is sold in China. The United States is in second place with almost 18 million.

"If China says no more fossil-fuel powered cars, global carmakers must follow," said William Russo of Gao Feng Advisory, a Chinese consulting firm.

A week after China’s announcement, California, which has annual sales of over 2 million passenger vehicles (more than France, Italy or Spain), announced it is developing plans to phase out ICE vehicles in the next few decades.

"To reach the ambitious levels of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we have to pretty much replace all combustion with some form of renewable energy by 2040 or 2050," said Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board in a Bloomberg News article.

What are the implications of the increasing number of bans on ICE vehicles for electric vehicles (EVs)? Currently, EVs account for under 2 percent of total vehicle sales in China, but spurred by government incentives, that number is expected to increase significantly. In fact, BYD, a Chinese automaker in which Warren Buffett has an ownership stake, is already in the process of improving the quality of its EVs and vehicle batteries and is making a sales push abroad.

In California, according to the Bloomberg article, "If a ban were implemented, automakers from General Motors Co. to Toyota Motor Corp. would be under new pressure to make electric vehicles the standard for personal transportation in the most populous U.S. state, casting fresh doubts on the future of gasoline- and diesel-powered autos elsewhere."

So, it would seem, if all of these governmental bodies follow through on their ICE vehicle bans, more U.S. gas stations will gradually be replaced by EV charging stations. And, of course, more homeowners and business owners will install EV charging stations on their own properties.

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